Hospitality venues were today hoping to re-emerge from more than a year of disruption. Theatres, cinemas and bingo halls are also among those able to welcome people back again.
The optimism has been tainted by rising concerns about the rise of the Indian variant. But with the protection of vaccines, it is hoped that any further restrictions can be avoided.
Traders opening up again today called for certainty as they prepare to welcome people back.
Matt Lorenz, who runs Novella Craft & Cocktails in Newport alongside his partner Marie Ryley, have been running deliveries in order to survive the crisis.
Mr Lorenz said: "When we shut our doors in November after only four weeks of being open, we knew we had to do something, other than waiting for it to be over, in order to survive – so we started running a delivery service for cocktails, beers and wines.
"If it wasn't for the regulars that kept us going during lockdown, we probably wouldn't have made it to the May reopening and for that we are so truly grateful for their support. We've also been spending our time finishing off parts of the bar that we wanted to have done for the original opening.
"We may find an advantage with being an indoor venue if weather is unpredictable.
"We have now integrated a super simple-to-use booking app into our Facebook page which we recommend for making reservations as it's looking to be busy already. We will be continuing table service indefinitely, even after social distancing has been relaxed.
"We now have 15 beer taps which we didn't have before, which will really shine a light on small independent breweries and their hidden gems, most of which need our support right now. Finally, as before, our cocktails will continue to be our bread and butter with some new recipe changes to parts of our original menu."
He said that the Government's approach to hospitality over the last year left a lot to be desired.
"I feel like I'm definitely not alone in feeling the impact from the handling of the pandemic which has been insurmountable for some parts of the hospitality industry."
Darren Wood, landlord of the New Inn, said his pub has been doing well since reopening but is only serving drinks for the time-being, as its chefs are still on furlough.
“It was nice to see people again and it went very well, but it starts to slow up when it gets colder in the evenings. It’s weather dependent.
"We have 22 socially-distanced tables outside but only six are under cover.”
Mr Wood said he has been forced to shut the pub on some days this week due to the weather, which has brought rain, hail and even a hint of snow.
He said he understood the frustration by some at only being able to open outdoors under current restrictions, but added: “There’s no point forcing it and rushing it. It has been a long 12 months. Hospitality needs that reassurance of people being able to sit inside again. It can’t come quick enough for the industry.”
Lion and Pheasant refreshed and ready
Shrewsbury's Lion and Pheasant restaurant at the bottom of Wyle Cop is looking forward to customers returning.
Owner Rachel Chidlow said: "The staff are very excited. The head chef has a new menu ready. We can't wait to reopen the restaurant and welcome back our regulars. We have a healthy number of bookings."
During the five-and-a-half months restaurants have had to keep their doors closed, bosses of the Shrewsbury restaurant have been sprucing the place up.
"We've been working full on for the last few weeks redecorating the bedrooms and doing things inside the hotel and restaurant," said Rachel. "It's easier to do these things when you're closed so we have taken advantage of that. We've done a complete top to bottom refresh, and now we've got to finish some decoration outside. We'll be ready to go on Monday morning.
"I think people will notice a few changes."
Rachel is hopeful that the area can look forward to a prosperous summer as restrictions are lifted.
Asked if she thinks local hospitality and tourism could do well, especially considering travel bans still being imposed on various countries, she said: "I hope so. It's nice for people to see what's on their own doorstep and what beautiful places they have close by. I think we will see a lot of new people who might not have visited in the past. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Midlands-based pubs and restaurants group Marston’s, said today was a huge milestone for all hospitality businesses.
He said: “From today, being able to serve our guests indoors and for people to enjoy a drink and a meal in more comfort is a fantastic step forward and we know our guests want it. Now more than ever we are ready to fully reopen and safely welcome back guests.”
The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is reopening Enginuity, Jackfield Tile Museum, Coalport China Museum, and Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron from Wednesday.
A new story-telling area has also been created at Enginuity to allow visitors to learn more about the history of the area, while a new interactive screen will reveal the history and personal stories of some of the people who worked in the Gorge in bygone eras.
Scientists will be watching any impact of today’s relaxation amid concerns over the emergence of the Indian variant in some areas.
Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council Shaun Davies, said the situation was being monitored but that virus levels across Shropshire remained low.